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considerable portion of country in Europe from the Catholic Church, the loss has been abundantly retrieved by the accession of much larger regions elsewhere that have embraced her communion.
In regard to the vial of this age, we shall add nothing more, to what has been said of it in its place, than the following admonition. If the true servants of God, faithful members of the Catholic Church, observe that towards fifty years from the present date,* the state of kingdoms and the course of public affairs seem to presage the approaching effusion of the fifth vial, accordingly as we have intimated, then “Go out from her, my people: that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues, "Apoc. xviii. 4: fly from the countries of wrath and perdition.
THE sixth Age is the last of the Christian Church militant on earth. The time of its commencement cannot be ascertained, much less its final period, that is, the day of judgment, which, as our Saviour says, “no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father." Mark xiii. 32. Among various sentiments touching the duration of this world, that seems to have prevailed most, which fixes its period at about six thousand years: but as all is uncertain with respect to this point, we shall not trouble the reader with any discussion about it. The Apocalyptical description of the sixth age paints it in colours, that leave no doubt it will be the most turbulent, the most calamitous, and most persecuting of all other ages. How alarming and how terrible will appear those extraordinary and unnatural signs in the sun, moon, and stars, the earthquakes, the enormous swellings and roarings of the sea, the bloody wars and battles, &c. ! Both our Saviour in the Gospel and St. John, in the Apocalypse, express sufficiently the impression these calamities will make on mankind, by saying, “that men will sink away for fear, and call upon the mountains to fall upon them and cover them.” How dreadful will be the destruction made by the terrible army of Antichrist ! How cruel and bloody his persecution, which will last three years and an half! These shocking events, which throw confusion in the whole system of nature, will be certain presages of the approaching dissolu.
* Printed 1771.
tion of the whole structure of the world. Happy those men, who shall take due warning from them, and shall consider them in a true light.
And here we ought to acknowledge the particular favour the Almighty God is pleased to grant us, in giving its previous notice of the disasters attending the sixth age, that we may prepare for them. And this duty is the more incumbent on us, since we touch so near that period, that the next generation or next but one, will probably see some part of it. For after the fifth vial is poured out, which we have shown will be done about fifty years hence,* we do not know how soon the commencement of the sixth age may follow. There even seem to appear already some indications of the approach of that period. For the Almighty, in his wisdom and mercy, before he pours down heavy disasters, generally sends lesser calamities by the way of admonition: and thus we see in these present times greater irregularities in the seasons of the year than used to be, more dearth and distress, earthquakes more frequent, &c. all which may be esteemed a prelude to those much more dreadful disasters of the next age. Who would not then judge it highly necessary that parents should prevent their children of such unparalleled calamities that are to happen, and which it may be their lot to share in. They should be made acquainted with the principal transactions of the next age, as they are recorded in the Apocalypse. For disasters, when foreseen, generally make less impression. The pastors of the Church will probably think it expedient to inculcate the same to their flocks, because those who shall exist in the next age, ought to be prepared and fortified in a peculiar manner with a lively faith, with the love of God, and an ardent desire of their own salvation. Since many of them may be destined, by divine appointment, to pass through a most severe trial in the persecution of Antichrist, they cannot be too well grounded in the above-mentioned principles. The account we have from St. John and the prophet Daniel of that persecution, indicates, it will surpass in violence and cruelty all the persecutions of the first age of Christianity: what degree of fortitude therefore must be requisite to support the faithful on so trying an occasion ? “ The Church now admonishes you," says St. Cyril, “and announces to you the things that relate to Antichrist before they come to pass. Whether they will happen in our time or later, we know not:
* Printed 1771.
but, as you are prevented of them, it is fit you should prepare yourself.” Catech. 15.
Let the history of former persecutions be assiduously read, in order to acquire some idea of them, with which when the mind is familiarized, they will appear less terrible. Prepared by these means, and animated by the influx of divine grace, the faithful servants of God will hope to be able to undergo the same hardships and sufferings, which the primitive Christians sustained, and of which we read in St. Paul the following description :—"Some were racked,” says he," Others had trials of mockeries and stripes, moreover also of bonds and prisons. They were stoned, they were cut asunder, they were tempted, they were put to death by the sword, they wandered about in sheep-skins, in goat-skins, being in want, distressed, afflicted: of whom the world was not worthy: wandering in deserts, in mountains, and in dens, and in caves of the earth.” Ep. to the Hebr. xi. 35, &c. Let especially a diligent and repeated perusal be made of the trials of the martyrs : that by viewing their invincible fortitude and constancy, the faithful may be inspired with the same spirit. They will see with what courage the primitive Christians appeared before the tribunals of the pagan judges, with what noble fortitude they answered to the questions put to them, with what unconcern they viewed the racks and other instruments prepared for their torture, with what inflexibility they continued to profess their faith in the midst of torments, and with what resolution they bowed down their heads under the hand of the executioner. “We say we are Christians," says Tertullian, “and proclaim it to the whole world; and under the hands of the executioner, and in the midst of all the torInents you inflict upon us, to compel us to unsay it. Torn and mangled, and weltering in our blood, we cry out as loud as we are able: that we are worshippers of God through Christ." Apol. c. 21. Those invincible heroes of antiquity, who thus sealed their faith with their blood, are the models we must set before our eyes, and which we must copy after. They had always in view that heavenly recompense which waited for them after their combat, and which infinitely surpassed whatever they could suffer in this world. They said to themselves, “the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us." Rom. viii. 18. They recollected what our Saviour had said. "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer -Be faithful unto death: and I will give thee the crown
of life.” Apoc. ii. 10. And again: “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you.—Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven.” Matt. v. 11, 12. This heavenly prospect animated their courage and sweetened their torments. They had likewise before their eyes the divine pattern of their Lord and Saviour, who had trodden the same path before them for their encouragement. And what homage can be more acceptable to him, than to offer our lives to him who laid down his for our sake? How beautiful a spectacle in the sight of God is a Christian entering the lists with affliction, and with a noble constancy combating menaces, racks and tortures! When like a conqueror he triumphs over the judge that condemns him. For he is certainly victorious who obtains what he fights for. Min. Fel. in Octav. Full of such thoughts and sentiments, and inspired with interior joy, those champions congratulated one another on the view of their approaching triumph, saying: the persecutor wrests from us our lands, but heaven is open to us: the enemy of Christ threatens, but Christ protects us. They put us to death, but we are crowned with immortality; by killing us they deprive us of this world, but paradise is offered us in its stead : our temporal life is extinguished, but is changed into eternal. Cyprian de exhort. mart. c. 12. Such ought to be the reflections of those who shall exist in the next age. The complexion of that period will be similar to that of the first age under the persecuting Roman emperors, and will exceed it in violence and cruelty. The consideration therefore of the behaviour of the primitive Christians is the best preparation that can be recommended to their successors in the last age. Let them add to it another reflection, which should never be absent from their mind, namely, the immortal glory and happiness, which Christ expressly promises and describes as the portion of all those who shall sacrifice to him their lives in the persecution of Antichrist. “These are they who are come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and they serve him day and night in his temple : and he, that sitteth on the throne, shall dwell over them. They shall no more hunger or thirst, neither shall the sun fall on them or any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them, and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Apoc. vii. 14, &c.
Besides the reasons we have given above, the necessity of beginning to inculcate the preceding lessons to the present rising generation appears the more, when we consider the general decay of religion which now prevails. So little is the practice of morality attended to, so little even is religion thought of, that we see already no small progress made towards that apostacy, as St. Paul calls it, or towards that general defection from faith, and that degeneracy of morals, which will take place before the great minister of Satan, Antichrist, appears. How swift indeed must be the decline of true faith, while free-thinking grows at such a pace? While every one seems to fix it as a principle, to believe nothing more than his reason comprehends, or that coincides with his own private humour ? What practice of morality can we expect from people, who are immersed in wordly pleasures, or in pursuits of private interest, who never spend a moment of thought about eternity, nor scarce ever address their God and Creator in a short prayer? And is not this the general course of life of the present generation of mankind ? Certainly then, due care should be taken to prevent as many of the new rising race as possible from being infected by this pestiferous corruption, and to prepare them to be enrolled in the list of the few elect of the approaching time. When a tide of irreligion and infidelity has broken in, and is seen to swell every day, what wonder if the period approach, when God will bring all to the test, and try them as metal in a fiery furnace, in order to discriminate between the good and the bad, and to separate the sound from the unsound grain ? The few that will remain firm and stanch under all temptations and persecution, will shine with great lustre in those days, when the bulk of mankind will suffer themselves to be seduced 'so far, as to go over to Antichrist, adore him as a God, and renounce their Creator, their religion, and their own conviction. Notwithstanding the great power of Antichrist, and his faculty of performing surprising wonders, the small body of the faithful will bear away the palm of victory, by their constancy in maintaining the cause of God at the expense of their lives, and by their fortitude in not yielding to promises, threats, or torments. And thus the fruit of their perseverance will be, to see their victory completed, and the cause of religion fully vindicated, by the just judgments of God upon the impious, when he will exterminate in the most public and terrible manner that satanic man, Antichrist, with